When the X-Files was conceived, series creator Chris Carter only had in mind the plotline about the alien conspiracy and abductions. Early on, the series really was propelled by this story arc. Though the “monster-of-the-week” (MotW) episodes were introduced because “series creator Chris Carter thought that the show could not sustain its momentum unless it branched out from the previously UFO-centered plots”, many MotW episodes in seasons 1 and 2 really felt like fillers, those of season 2, often obsessed with pure, intrinsic evil, being particularly weak. For all its MotW dullness, however, season 2 also saw the introduction of a whole new dimension of the show: comedy episodes. With late season 2’s Humbug, a flawed but surprising episode, the show gained in depth.
Season 3 would be a major turnaround for the show: MotW episodes became rather consistently good, a trend that would strengthen in Seasons 4, 5 and 6. Meanwhile, the alien conspiracy plot was losing steam, especially in the eyes of the diehard fans who were sitting on an ever increasing list of inconsistencies they had been carefully compiling. To them more than to the careful yet fairly casual watcher I was, it became clear that Chris Carter and his acolyte Frank Spotnitz were just making it up along the way. Of course it’s hard to do otherwise when you run a show which might last only two seasons or maybe ten. Season 7, which for a while was supposed to be the last one of the show, and which ended up as the final season to feature Fox Mulder in all episodes, was the weakest since Season 2.
Seasons 8 and 9, where Fox Mulder had been replaced, so to say, by my boy John Doggett, and later, and to a lesser extent, Dana Scully would be replaced by Monica Reyes, were more of a swan song than anything else. Many individual episodes in Season 8 were strong, but the overall storyarc of the show was getting more self-contradicting every week.
For all its flaws, the X-Files provided countless hours of good television. In intend to give my full ranking of MotW episodes in a series of upcoming posts.